Canadian folk-pop duo The Small Glories are Cara Luft, founding member of The Wailin’ Jennys, and JD Edwards and they’ll make their way down to Portsmouth for a gig at the Music Hall Loft on Thursday, July 11 in support of their brand new album, “ Assiniboine and The Red. ”
EDGE had the opportunity to ask the pair all about it, and, by-and-large, they answered all the pressing questions in unison. Seems they’ve done this sort of thing before …
EDGE: ” How’d the Small Glories come to be? Why’d the Small Glories come to be? “
Glories: ” The Small Glories came to be after both of us were seeking new musical endeavors. We were invited to perform at the West End Cultural Centre’s 25th anniversary in 2012 along with a number of other artists and performers from around Manitoba. Instead of all the artists performing their own material, the artistic director paired everyone off and asked each group to sing two songs written by folks who were from Manitoba or who had lived there at one point. That night we sang “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” by Neil Young and “1000 Stars” by Greg McPherson. (Both of which would find their ways onto various recordings down the line.) The two of us didn’t know each another very well, except for the odd time when we’d see one another at the music store in Winnipeg. We had never actually heard the other sing before the rehearsals for the concert. It was an instant harmonic connection with our voices. The audience that night loved what they heard and we were excited about it too. A year or so later, Cara invited JD to join her on one of her solo tours and by the end of that run the decision was made to explore this musical union further. A recording session in BC was booked with the help of producer Neil Osborne, and at the end of the two-week session we had a record and The Small Glories were formed.”
EDGE: ” Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? “
Luft: ” I grew up in a musical family (my parents were professional folk musicians) and I credit my upbringing for instilling in me a lifelong love of music and of creativity. Most of my friends weren’t raised in this kind of environment — musicians coming to stay in our home while touring through town, our family hosting regular house concerts in the basement, getting carted off to festivals and concerts, no TV, being encouraged to listen to records and play instruments — so I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced something that was quite unique. I was creating and playing music from a very young age (4 years old) and felt that it was as important in my life as eating, breathing and sleeping. Being exposed to live music on a regular basis made it feel like it was just a normal part of my life. We also attended a church while I was growing up and that particular community was full of fabulous musicians, many of them folkies, with the church hosting a community-wide annual Folk Night in the fall. I believe music (and particularly my experience with folk music) is the great equalizer and the great unifier. It can tear down walls, it bring people together. It can move people to tears or have them leap up with joy. It can change a person’s opinion, change their mood, it can cross borders and aisles. With power like that, how could I not seek it out or create it? “
Edwards: ” It has always been an important part of my life. Music is always there for me when I need a pick-me-up or when I want to express my mood at any moment. Music is the thing I go to when I feel the need to escape or when I want to connect with people I have just met. I love sharing music from the stage and around the fire. Music has always made me feel good, and that’s why I have always been drawn toward it. I grew up in a very musical family. My folks took me and my siblings to church every Sunday, where we’d sing as a family for the congregation. My father lead hymns and my mother played piano and lead the choir too. My folks both sang in choirs as did I all through all my school years. I tried to surround myself with music all the time. I performed in high school musicals, played trombone in the school orchestra and started writing music on guitar when I was a teenager. I studied trombone in university, playing everywhere I could including the symphony and a 10-piece rock band called Travel Agent. I have been a solo performer, but have played all kinds of ensembles.”
EDGE: ” What’s the songwriting process like among the two of you? Is there a “chief” songwriter, or do you co-write in the same space? I suppose you could co-write by bouncing ideas off of each other at different times, too… You tell me! “
Glories: ” We have approached songwriting in all kinds of ways as The Small Glories. We have brought songs from our solo work as well as from our other projects and put them through the TSG filter, as we like to call it. And we’ve written together from scratch, as well as co-written together with other artists. We love arranging our original songs for two voices and in our TSG style, and re-arranging covers and traditional songs to suit our voices and styles. We sometimes try to put a new spin on old songs. The main thing is that we respect the other’s musical instincts as well as writing chops, and believe in supporting each other in whatever songs we’re working on.”
EDGE: ” You’re about to release a brand spanking new record entitled, “Assiniboine and The Red.” What were your goals for this thing? What excites you about getting this thing out into the wild? “
Glories: ” New material is always super exciting and friggin’ scary at the same time. We’ve been traveling pretty hard the last few years and we picked up some of these stories and experiences along the way. The songs on “ Assiniboine & the Red” were written with some amazing songwriters and written in an incredibly beautiful part of the country. We had very little time to develop these beauties back when they were first written, but they’ve now had time to sit and evolve into what you hear on the record today. And we are really proud of them and want you and everyone to listen to them and enjoy them. We think these are beautiful songs, and we believe that good music should be shared. “
EDGE: ” What are you hoping people take with them when they experience this music? “
Luft: ” We hope that people will experience a little chunk of what life in Canada is like. The beautiful vastness of the land and great distances between cities. We want folks to take a musical journey with us as from coast to coast to coast.
EDGE: ” What do you get out of this music? “
Edwards: “Assiniboine and the Red” is honest music. These are real stories of human spirit and experience and they come from real places. We love telling the stories of where and how these songs came to be. Plus the music itself is fun to play and to perform.
EDGE: ” What’s in the title of the record? “
Glories: ” The title of the record refers to the two rivers that converge in the center of Winnipeg. We like to think that the rivers represent the two of us coming from somewhere else and meeting here in the city. The stories and ideas on this record were stirred up from our meeting and brought to the surface for everyone to hear.
EDGE: ” You’re heading to Portsmouth for a show at the Music Hall Loft on July 11th. What can folks expect? “
Glories: ” The people who come to the show in Portsmouth can most definitely expect some beautiful music, great singing, fun stories, awesome stage banter and a good time. For most people, everything will be new and fresh. That’s exciting for us and (we hope) for the audience, too. ”
EDGE: ” What do you appreciate about being able to travel around and present your music to folks in towns far and wide? “
Luft: ” Traveling gives us great joy. To see the world and meet the people who live in different places is most exciting. We don’t often get a chance to see the sites of anywhere in particular but we do get to hang with the folks who live there. They are the real treasures. We know the world can be a difficult and dark place sometimes so we try to bring light and joy, and even some respite wherever we go. “
EDGE: ” Is it weird to play to a room full of (predominantly) strangers?
Edwards: ” Playing for strangers is what we do. We sometimes share our most cherished thoughts and ideas and sometimes people feel comfortable so they share back. “
EDGE: ” What are some small everyday glories that you’re thankful for? “
Luft: ” For safe travels, for connecting with old and new friends out on the road. For good coffee. For safe and welcoming homes. For kindnesses from friends and strangers. And every day I’m thankful for where I live. It’s pure luck that I was born and raised in Canada, and every day I’m grateful for that.”
Edwards: ” I’m thankful for people sharing their homes when we need a place to stay. I’m thankful for folks waking up super early in the morning after a wicked night of music and fun just to lift me to the airport, so I can catch my flight home. I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to stay connected with my family when we are away on tour somewhere miles away from home. “
Go & Do
What: The Small Glories
When: 8 p.m., Thursday, July 11
Where: The Music Hall Loft, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth
More info: Visit www.themusichall.org for details and tickets
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